The Trail of the Turtle

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Boozhoo, Aniin! Denay Makinitook!

Welcome, My Relatives, to the Centre, the heart of Turtle Island, the sacred place of Manito Api. Today we come forward to share a gift from the Original People.

Let me begin by offering words of gratitude to the Great Spirit Kizhay Manito, for the Great Vision of Life.

Today I call upon the spirit of the ancestors to join us as we bring forward this sacred gift, which we refer to as Mikinak-Keya – Trail of the Turtle.

As the Original free and independent Peoples of this land, we have the distinction of being the roots of our homeland. This positions us with the responsibility to be the true leaders and the voice of our homeland. Derived from the original domain of Spirit, we present Mikinak-Keya – Trail of the Turtle – The Spirit Tour, as our gift to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and all people of the world.

For the Original People, Mother Earth is the face of the Great Spirit. In our belief system, everyone and everything is governed first by Spiritual Laws – the values that connect us to a Higher Power and inspire us to have a spirit of Kizhay Ottiziwin – Beings of Kindness. For the Original People, human rights do not come from paper – they are not man-made; they come from the Great Spirit. Everyone and everything is held together and governed by Spiritual Laws and Natural Laws – laws that are woven into the fabric of Creation and written upon the Earth. We refer to this as the Great Binding Law of the Great Spirit.

The Original People continue to live in an environment of imposition and marginalisation, which has denied our inherent right to be an autonomous and self-determining People. In our language the term Ki ongonaa – ‘the burying of a way of life’ – the genocide and the suppression of a people and their sacred teachings through colonization, secular legislation and ignorance, describes our recent and continued experience.

But there is a saying amongst our People:

They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds – the seeds of the future that carry a vision that can unite us all and can help bring back the memory of the Original Instructions on how to be a human being.

This tour is meant to appeal to the hearts of humanity to move beyond our division, our separation, our disrespect and our violence, to build, together, a healthier, peaceful world that includes the Spirit and Earth as a foundation for all human rights.

By sharing the Spiritual Laws and Natural Laws of our people, this tour is designed to plant a seed of living truth in the heart – a seed that will grow into a rooted respect and love for the land and all Creation, and inspire us to the highest values of behaviour toward the Earth and humanity. This tour originates from the spirit of our ancestors and it offers an introduction to sacred teachings that will continue to mature after the tour experience.

As a People we have always received guidance and direction from our dreams, visions and ceremonies. This tour was designed based on the dreams, visions and ceremonies of our People.

Since our beginning as the Original Peoples of this land, we have gathered on a sacred site in close proximity to the museum, a site even older than The Forks - Manito Api, one of the most revered and significant sacred sites of the Original Peoples of Turtle Island. Historically, our Nations would arrive by land and by water at The Forks, and travel from here to Manito Api. All the content of this tour begins at Manito Api, which is a place of healing, direction and vision located in the geographical centre of North America. Just as the Museum is an expression of Human Rights, Manito Api is the expression of the Spiritual and Natural Laws, which this tour is based on.

The Spirit Tour was developed through an equal partnership between the Elders Circle Seven and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, acknowledging the leadership of the Original People in the development of the Tour.

We are proud and honoured to share this precious gift as it reflects the richness of our identity and close connection to Mother Earth, the source of all life. This gift is our way of inspiring the collective human family to remember our Original Instructions on how to be a human being and to live in accordance with the principles of Respect, Love, Courage, Honesty, Wisdom, Humility, and Truth. The importance of this tour is to reinforce the significance of our spiritual identity, which is inclusive to all cultures. We must not continue to overstep the guidance of Spirit, and we must not overstep Mother Earth anymore.

Nature has become sick because of our behaviour of selfishness and ignorance. And as much as we have been impacted as human beings because of disconnect from higher Spiritual and Natural Laws, we have affected the animal and plant world to the extent that the animals and plants have become very sick because we have shown so much disrespect for the air, the earth, the water – the elements of life.

If we reflect upon the teachings of this tour and deeply ponder its messages it would inspire us to live in accordance with Nature and be rooted in Spirit, which honours the rights of everyone. This tour is about inspiring and encouraging respect for each other, and to respect our sacred responsibilities to be caretakers of and speakers for the Earth.

The Spirit Tour is meant to inspire us to show respect for Nature’s authority that is based on balance and harmony.

The Spirit Tour is meant to inspire us to follow Nature’s Laws that serve to nurture, teach and guide our lives towards survival.

The Spirit Tour is meant to help us to return the deep love we all receive from Mother Earth.

The Spirit Tour is meant to help us to return to the beginning, that holds the memory of the original instructions we were all given on how to be a human being, that reflects respect and kindness for all life.

It was with humility that we as the Elders Circle Seven represented our People the best way we knew how, with whatever, albeit limited, knowledge that each of us carried. With the great help and participation of architectural historian Dr. Frank Albo, and Chandra Erlendson representing the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

We have done our best to represent our Original People as Anishnabe, Cree and Dakota. We take full responsibility for what we have shared. We present this story knowing it is an attempt to capture the fullness, richness and beauty of the Original People.

We acknowledge the fact that we could never transfer our way of life through written words alone. We are an oral people. Sacred law cannot be written. It must be spoken, heard and lived. Our way of life is meant to be lived and experienced. Our words are meant to inspire and guide our fellow human beings to follow the path of the heart.

The Spirit Tour is meant to inspire us to become united - to walk together in the footsteps of our ancestors as they lead us into the future, when finally we will treat each other as equals…and where we can treat our home, Mother Earth, with the deep profound love and respect she deserves.

Miigwetch, E'kosi, Wopida

Dave Courchene (Anishnabe Nation, Eagle Clan) is leader and founder of the Turtle Lodge, a place for sharing the knowledge of the Original People on the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba. He has travelled internationally, carrying a message of hope and peace.